It’s all about stories. Life, fundraising, relationships – whatever the “it” is, it’s all about stories.
I got into fundraising, like so many in the field, quite by accident, because I could tell stories. After finishing my Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting, I really didn’t have a plan on what to do next and I discovered, perhaps too late, that I really hated auditioning. And not eating. Or having a place to live that didn’t have roaches and walls that seeped whenever it rained or snowed. Stories sometimes digress.
What I didn’t know is that the work I’d been doing as a Box Office Manager for a summer stock theater was an actual profession – getting people to buy tickets, become members, support the theater. My first full-time fundraising job – that was actually called fundraising – was as a Grant Writer and Special Events Manager. Weird combination, but it worked because I got to put on shows (aka “galas”) and tell stories. Wonderful stories about the impact of arts-integrated curricula in inner-city classrooms and early childhood education programs. And, so, started a career I didn’t know I wanted but one I’m proud of and deeply passionate about.
In theater training, they tell you frequently, “If you can find something you love more and do better, then go do it!” I’ve been a professional fundraiser and recovering actor since 1990. (I’m also a really reluctant data geek, but how do you tell a story if you don’t know who your audience is?)
Fundraising is about telling stories. It’s about telling the donor’s story through the eyes of the causes they support. I’ve been truly fortunate to work as both a consultant and a front-line fundraiser, which means I’ve worked with performing and visual arts organizations, a lot of hospitals and healthcare orgs, more schools and institutes of higher ed than I can count, and some amazing social service organizations.
And whether that work was Annual Fund (my personal favorite, obvs), Major Gifts, Capital and Endowment campaigns or Planned Giving, the one thing I’ve learned is that it’s all about the stories.
I’ve been known to tell stories in 140 characters or less, too. Follow @tclaybuck
I’m intensely proud of the work my colleagues and I did while I was a Senior Consultant with WealthEngine, a three-part series of workbooks called “The Data-Driven Annual Fund” which you can download for free.